On slow nights you try to park in well lit areas. On the east side that pretty much leaves you the casino and McDonalds. On the west side there are a few gas station parking lots.
One night I was on the east side and I parked at the casino valet area. At least there you have hope of a flag. I was with another driver named Terry. Terry and I got outside of our taxis to stretch and smoke. It was a Sunday night and Sunday is a great night for late night radio. One station has a live concert set, then Little Stevens Underground Garage and then they close it out with Jazz Transfusion. Another station does bluegrass followed by some classic blues. Then there is old time radio, replays of Prairie Home Companion and much more.
We both love music of all kinds. Terry wears a folk hat with a brown brim and likes to roll his own cigarettes. When the weather is cold I wear my Australian wool wide brimmed hat and a moto jacket with a sherpa lining. We look like a couple of cabbie cowboys on the casino range.
In the midst of our conversation a young man comes up to us wearing a very expensive Chicago Bulls Leather jacket and saggy jeans with his boxer showing. He is a wealthy suburban college kid gansta wannabe white kid. He is also sporting loud jewelry and what is so obviously a fake diamond earring.
He walks up to both of us and asks, "Hey man, can I get a ride?"
Terry looks at him (he was "first" in line) "Where are you going?"
"Wheaton. By the college." He says.
Terry looks at me for a moment and I look at him and say,"About seventy."
Terry looks at him and says,"About seventy. You got that kind of cash?"
The kid smiles and says,"I got $20. Can you do it for twenty?"
"Nope" Terry replies.
"How about you? You wanna make twenty?" The kid says looking at me.
"If you mean, do I wanna lose $50. No."
He looks at Terry again and says,"C'mon, I know you fuckers make bank."
Terry laughs and says,"By the end of tonight, the guy at the drive thru is gonna do better than me. I am not a charity. If i were a charity, I'd give free rides all night long. But I have dogs to feed. Pat, are you a charity?"
"Nope." I said.
"I'll give you my ring. It's real." He shows a cheap ring the likes of which a gumball machine would be proud to display. Terry declines. I look at him and notice the movado museum classic is real.
"I'll do it for the watch." I say.
"The ring is worth more, man." He says.
"Then you are getting the bargain, man." I say.
"Hey man. Give me a ride to an atm and I will make this right!" he says.
This is a sign of danger. When someone who has no money wants in your cab, he is close to your money. His eyes are wide and the kid is high off something. Probably coke. Both of us casually position ourselves by our taxis to prevent entry. Terry tells him there is an atm two blocks down Clinton and I tell him there is one on the hotel side of the casino just past the bathrooms by the courtesy phone. He makes excuses that he does not want to go back in the casino and he also says he does not want to stabbed walking to the atm. While this is going on, valet asks us who is first in line. Terry says he is and they tell him they have a guest that needs a ride. When valet tells you this, they have usually screened the person or the casino is paying. Terry grabs a couple and off they go.
I am now alone with mister money bags. I go back into my taxi as a precaution and he comes up to the window. I crack it only a little and he still tries to bargain with me. He realizes he is not getting anywhere with me and starts to head back into the casino. That is when I see it. Casino security will not let him back in the building.
By this time another cab pulls up from one of our competitors. I know the driver. Her and I compete for fares a lot. She pulls up and rolls down her window and asks me how I am. Then she sees the young man approaching us and I look at her and say,"Don't take him. He can't pay."
"Pat,"she says,"I ain't falling for your tricks. He's mine." With that she pulls up to him and scoops him up and off they go.
I get out of my taxi to stretch and am about to light a cigarette when I hear a voice behind me say,"Excuse me?"
I turn around to see a young lady with a Coach handbag and Stuart Weitzman fur boots clutching her iphone. "There's no Uber or Lyft here. Can you take me to my condo?" She is standing close enough I can smell the Clive Christian on her. She doesn't have money. She IS money.
"Where is your condo?"
"I live in the Bristol. You know it?"
"Delaware and Rush, I know it. It is about a $98 trip. Is that okay?"
"I don't have any cash on me, do you take this?" She is holding an American Express Black card in her hand.
I walk to the passenger door and hold it open,"Your chariot awaits, ma'am."
"Thank you. My name's Jessica," she said. "I'm so glad you were here. How do you know my building?"
"I used to run a charity,"
On our way to the gold coast, she asked me about my night. She was fascinated to be in a cab with a conversational cabbie who did not mind credit cards. I told her about the guy in the bulls jacket.
"Oh my god!" She exclaimed,"That guy tried to sell me coke and when I said no he tried to grab my butt and kiss me. I told security and they kicked him out. He broke out his dad's name. His dad's some kind of pastor and professor in Wheaton. Figures, huh?"
During the ride I found out that Jessica is a working fashion model who gives 25% of her income to charity and is on the board for a well known pediatric cancer foundation. She is also a Buddhist.
I asked what drew her to be so charitable. She said Roshi says that the fundamental delusion of humanity is to suppose that I am here and you are out there. She went on to tell me that there is no difference between her and a homeless woman or a woman with breast cancer. When she forgets that, when she begins to see herself more successful, then she will succumb to the life delusion.
"The cancer survivor may one day become a great teacher in a school that needs him. A homeless battered wife could go on to write books that could save women or become a legislator that passes laws that ends homelessness. I'm good at what I do, but this career is as fleeting as my looks. Teaching and storytelling is eternal. You should tell stories. I know who rides in cabs. That is eternal. The story of the privileged young man who runs out of options is important for white suburbans to read. Besides, I'm glad I got to meet the founder of YASO and my favorite Outlaw Preacher."
I was stunned. "You know who I am?"
"We have a mutual friend, Pat Green."
"I've read your articles in the Legend. You stir pots. Glad to see you are no longer a preacher, but keep stirring. Agitation and heat leads to a good boil."
To this day I have no idea who our mutual friend is.